Thursday, 10 May 2012

Rickie Fowler Blossoms

Last year during Darren Clarke's victory at the Open at St.George's I wrote a piece on the Friday afternoon whilst I watched the pairing of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler fight the elements as well as each other.  Many suspected the newly crowned US Open champion to rip up the Southern England course.

Yet McIlroy was found to be guilty of extreme naivety as his plan of bombing the ball down the course and overpowering the links did not come to fruition.  Yet you saw the younger (by a year) Fowler, a young man still learning his trade navigate the alien links course with poise and character.  He used shots of originality and creativity more akin to fellow countryman, Phil Mickelson, as he carded a sub-par round to move into contention.

Eventually Fowler fell away as Darren Clarke marched to his first major victory but the composure Fowler showed on his Open debut, made some heads turn and made some friends on these European shores.  He already came to prominence as the first US PGA tour rookie to be selected as a wildcard Captains pick for the  Ryder Cup in Wales in 2010.  He birdied the last four holes of a foursome tie to gain a halve point which almost became important as America nearly overturned a large deficit.

Yet he had still not won a tour event in America.  That all changed as he got his maiden US tour win at Wells Fargo, Quail Hollow winning a three man playoff with D.A. Points and one, world number one Rory McIlroy birdied the formidable pin position with hole 18 to garner a deserved win.

Heads were turned by again the composure and assuredness beyond his years that Fowler showed; he goes about his business quietly and does not draw attention to himself; the only time he does is with his Sunday best - a top to toe orange outfit in honour of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University where he got his college education.

Yet Fowler, a 23 year old Californian, has made many friends on tour who like the way he treats people and  is for want of a better word, approachable.  An odd trait in a world that is at times strictly private and cut off from the layman and common fan - many players once they get the big money, get the big house, the course in the back garden, the flashy cars. As if they live in Hollywood, or is that Holywood.

Fowler now can look to enjoy the remainder of his season, and be considered a contender for many tour events and maybe even the majors.  He has the length for the US Open, the composure and imagination for the links of Lytham St.Annes in July, whilst the PGA in August remains a pin a tale on a donkey contest.

Also in late September is the Ryder Cup - an event that needs young blood - an event that Fowler has already performed admirably in, and will look to regain the Samuel Ryder trophy and he will be a member (automatically or a wildcard by captain, Davis Love III) of a team that is starting to take shape - US Masters champion Bubba Watson, consistent Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, USPGA champion Keegan Bradley and a guy with the initials TW if he turns out of his current dead end.

There seems to be a resurgence occuring in America in terms of golf interest thanks to Watson's popular Masters win, but 16 of the 20 US tour events thus far have been won by Americans - whilst the European team whilst good in years go by seems more than likely to be built upon the trifecta of McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. Stalwarts such as Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter are out of form and not figuring in the business end of tournaments.  The team will take shape once the summer of majors is out of the way, and the team usually consists of those in form so do not fret just yet.

However, should Fowler and other Americans continue this purple patch of tournament wins then the Ryder Cup in Illinois may be a long weekend (Sept 28-30th) for Jose-Maria Olazabal and his compatriots.

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